Budget squeeze at Hall of Fame

NASCAR continues to feel the economic pinch, not only because of a significant dip in television ratings.

ESPN reported this week that NASCAR Hall of Fame officials are looking to cut between $2.5 million and $3 million in annual expenses to balance the budget. The budget problems are based on a large overestimation of attendance during the bidding process and a shortfall of sponsors.

The original first-year attendance estimate was 800,000 for the NASCAR Hall in Charlotte. Actual expected attendance is between 250,000 and 350,000.

"I admit we were wrong," Tim Newman, the chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority that headed the city's effort to get the shrine, told ESPN.

"We should not have been talking in those numbers. Because it was a public competition, you had those numbers out there. We were trying to win the business."

Charlotte was the winning bid city, beating out Richmond, Daytona Beach, Atlanta and Kansas City. Daytona Beach's attendance estimate was 500,000.

Although those numbers are much lower than expected, attendance is on par with the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., and close to the projected annual numbers at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

The budget cuts are not expected to affect the current exhibits or the 27 full-time employees, Newman said.

Martin shines: Mark Martin is one of NASCAR's good guys.

He's a little gruff sometimes, but that's just because the guy is so focused. He has had a rough go of it this season, failing to make the Chase for the Championship, but he still can ride with the best of them.

Although still winless, Martin finished a strong second behind Denny Hamlin at Martinsville.

Gordon snags sponsor: After a deal with Walmart fell through, Jeff Gordon is expected to find some sponsorship dollars next season when he hooks up with an anti-hunger campaign coordinated through the AARP Foundation.

Several outlets are reporting that a deal is expected to be announced by Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday.

Even top drivers have been struggling to land sponsorship deals because of the economy. Gordon is nearing the end of a nearly 20-year relationship with DuPont, although the company is scaling back its commitment.

— George Diaz

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